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Injured Michigan teen out of play for good after head injury

New research about the possible long-term consequences of sports-related head injuries has prompted the National Football League to pay special attention to the health of their valuable players. Studies have found that frequent hits to the head, an almost unavoidable event in hard-hitting sports, can lead to concussions and potential brain injury.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association took its cues from the pros to establish new health guidelines for athletes throughout the state. If it appears a student athlete has suffered a concussion, the player is benched for the remainder of a game. Additionally, the athlete is not allowed to participate in sports activities without clearance from a medical trainer or a physician.

The MHSAA has also instituted a policy to make sure coaches are trained to be aware of the symptoms and severity of the problems with head injuries.

The new rules may have prevented a serious health issue for a 17-year-old Michigan high school football player. The offensive lineman for Hudsonville's Unity Christian took a hard hit to the head in a September game last year.

A Zeeland East High School player struck the boy's head in play, causing the teenage athlete to pass out. The Unity Christian player woke up with a throbbing head, lapses in short-term memory and confusion. The boy was sidelined and, after a doctor's exam, out of football permanently.

Doctors discovered the teen had not just experienced one head injury during his lifetime, but several damaging head blows. The physician warned the high school lineman that any future injury could easily cause permanent brain damage or send the teen into a coma.

The diagnosis was a revelation for the player's parents and the teen himself. The young athlete learned that brain damage could be cumulative and advised other student athletes not to ignore or disguise any symptoms in ordering to keep playing the game.

Source: Wood 8 News, "Concussion rules may have saved teen," Crystal Hilliard, May 5, 2012

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